Tuesday, 02 July 2013
Mathieu Bitton By Aradna Sharma Photos by Mathieu Bitton and Julien Bitton
“ Like a little brother, it is a real pleasure to have him in my life. I am very touched and impressed by his passion and talent.” These are the words of the great Quincy Jones describing Los Angeles based 2010 Grammy nominated artist for classic interpretation of Jane’s Addiction Cabinet of Curiosities and the recipient of France’s highest decorations the 2012 medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters from French Republic) among many other awards.This is Mathieu Bitton, an Artist, a photographer, a film maker, a director, a producer, and a designer.
This multi-talented French born artist moved to United States when he was 14 Years old bringing with him curiosity, passion and determination. Young Bitton brought with him love and admiration for art and R&B, the Dada surrealism movement, 1920’s Jazz age art. The influence of the first real French rock star Serge Gainsbourg and rocker Prince was and still is undeniable for Mathieu.
I came across Mathieu Bitton’s work about two and a half years ago while in NYC and I have been following his inspirational work ever since. I could not have been happier when I got a rare chance to ask a few questions via email to this brilliantly creative man and a loving father of two beautiful boys.
As far as I can remember from going to flea markets in Paris and exhibitions as a kid, I was hooked on art and photography. Music started with my parents records, Cat Stevens, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and Serge Gainsbourg
When you are taking photos, which is more important to you the subject or the way you execute it?
Mathieu Bitton captures the raw naked truth with his lenses. Each photo whether it is a photograph of musical and Hollywood icons, nature, or nudes, all seem to evoke a certain emotion within. His first ever travelogue exhibition of photos from his travels of many years are on display in Hollywood in the famous Sheats/ Goldstein mansion. One of my favorite photos of his is in the “After Dark” series which shows a nude female subject in bed with warm glow of yellow light, with a man’s mask on. For me, personally, the photograph had soul and and I could feel the vulnerability. The most intriguing aspect in the photo is the mask that the subject puts on as if she is trying to elude the pain of the world and assume a different identity.
Does your audience influence how you take your pictures or do your ideas alone drive your work?
Ideas come to me and I execute them from instinct.
Does what is going on in your life at that particular time play out in your images?
Very often yes. Lately I have been doing "darker" things.
How do you pick your subjects?
Instinct and feeling. I'm very picky. I get a lot of crap from people asking me to shoot them and me being unresponsive. Has to come from within.
Over the span of his career, Bitton has designed more than 700 albums covers and has worked with who is who of cinema and music world from Miles Davis, Sting, Quentin Tarantino, Prince to name a few and most recently his collaboration with the rocker Lenny Kravitz . His directorial debut documentary “Looking Back on Love” , a journey behind making of Kravitz’s last studio album “Black and White America” was a huge success.
Which one of your many works has brought you the greatest satisfaction?
As far as design goes, definitely the Jane's Addiction "Cabinet Of Curiosities." Photography wise, the New Orleans impromptu shoot at Preservation Hall in 2010 and the Mark Gonzales shoot in Paris last year. Both seen in my travelogue exhibition.
When you look back on the photos you have taken over the span of your career of 20 years, does any particular photograph comes to mind that you wish you could go back and relive that moment again?
Maybe shooting Mick Jagger in New York CIty in 2009. I wish I had shot more.
In Addition to being a renowned photographer, Mathieu Bitton is also known for his love for Blaxploitation genre films, collections of original movie posters and the collections of rare records. Bitton’s personal collection has been used many times for a reissue or a box set or compilations.
When did you realized that you were drawn to the Blaxploitation genre ?
Very early on. It started with the soundtracks and then the films. I was a kid in Paris and snuck into a triple-bill Blaxploitation feature when I intended (and told my mom) I was going to see 101 Dalmatians.
Why did you decide to direct a documentary? Isn’t it a departure from what you have been doing or do you like feel there is a overlap between music, art and movie?
It's all the same to me. Still and moving images. It just happened out of necessity and being in the right place at the right time.
Would you be directing more movies/documentaries in the future?
Yes I am working on another one now. More shall be revealed.
It seems like the talent gene runs in the Bitton family. A few months ago, photograph taken by Bitton’s young son Julien Bitton was published in the Rolling Stone Russia magazine.
Have your sons taking after you artistically?
They really are their own persons but they do follow in my steps with music and taste in art. They like to do photography as well.
What is the one piece of advice that you would want to give to your sons?
Always follow your instinct and never compromise your art.
If you were not not doing what you do right now, what would it be?
I don't really think about stuff like that. I am who I am. But I would love to be a painter or Jazz pianist.
Do you make goals? Where will you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I always set goals yes. I would like to be a feature film director.
Where do you think future of Art and music is going in this digital age?
Music has become a free commodity, as kids don't connect with the financial value of it. I think special packaging will continue to sell for people like me who love to hold a physical product in their hands. But artists will never stop making music. So they better be able to tour and entertain people if they want to keep their mansions.
Can you give us a preview on your future projects?
I am really intent on directing a film on the history of Dada, the surrealist art movement. The 100th anniversary is in 2016. That's coming up fast. We already have a script. Aside from that I am working on a new Earth, Wind & Fire album right now. And producing (and designing) the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Lenny Kravitz's breakthrough album "Are You Gonna Go My Way." Also planning on doing a photography book and taking my exhibition across various continents. Just finished designing James Brown "Live At The Apollo" 50th Anniversary CD and Jane's Addiction "Live In NYC" DVD, CD, BluRay, LP and CD-DVD sets.
Here are fun/random questions I asked Mathieu Bitton with his answers..
Your dream is to work with...
Kanye West and Jay-Z
Serge Gainsbourg for you is..
the beginning of everything
Fashion for you is...
the cherry on top
Your boys are ...
A woman’s love is...
Your favorite movie...
Your favorite song...
Day By Day by Jimmy Scott
Fatherhood has made me...
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Mathieu Bitton.
Posted by Aradna Sharma at 09:55 AM | Permalink
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Nice interview. What a GREAT ENDING !!
Posted by: Sharada Bhandary | Jul 5, 2013 3:29:29 AM
Keep it up sister!!!
Posted by: dipesh lamsal | Jul 3, 2013 6:25:02 PM